Boys like blue, girls like pink and there isn't much anybody can do about it, researchers said on Monday in one of the first studies to show scientifically that there are gender-based colour preferences.

Researchers said these differences may have a basis in evolution in which females developed a preference for reddish colours associated with riper fruit and healthier faces.

Recent studies have suggested there is a universal preference for "blue", and there has not been much previous evidence to support the idea of sex differences when picking colours, said Anya Hurlbert, a neuroscientist at Newcastle University who led the study.

"We speculate that this sex difference arose from sex-specific functional specialization in the evolutionary division of labour," she wrote in Current Biology. "There are biological reasons for liking reddish things."

In the study, the researchers asked a group of men and women to look at about 1,000 pairs of coloured rectangles on a computer screen in a dark room and pick the ones they liked best as quickly as possible.

Afterwards, Hurlbert and colleagues plotted the results along the colour spectrum and found that while men prefer blue, women gravitate towards the pinker end of the blue spectrum.

"Women have a very clear pattern. It's low in the yellow and green regions and rises to a peak in the purplish to reddish region," she said.

Hurlbert believes women's preference for pink may have evolved on top of a natural, universal preference for blue.

"When you add it together you get the colours they intrinsically like, you get bluish red, which is sort of lilac or pink," she said.

For men, thinking about colours was less important because as hunters they just needed to spot something dark and shoot it, Hurlbert said.

As for Eve, Hurlbert added, maybe there was a different reason she picked that apple.

"Red was the colour of a good ripe fruit," Hurlbert said.